Mozilla Wants to Add Tor Inside Firefox as a Browsing Mode

By Bill Toulas / May 10, 2019

Mozilla is willing to invest money in integrating Tor into Firefox, as this goal was determined by the most recent Research Grants 2019H1 program. What Mozilla wants is to create a new browsing mode called “Super Private Browsing” SPB, offering supreme anonymity and privacy to its users. Mozilla admits that they are entering the unexplored territory, as they are mentioning the ongoing consideration of various protocol architectures and route selection protocols such as Tor-over-QUIC, Walking Onions, or DTLS employing. The main point is to reach an acceptable performance while preserving Tor’s properties, which is the main purpose of this whole effort.

While the “SPB” sounds great, Firefox will not be the first browser to offer this. The Brave browser offers a form of Tor integration since last summer, calling it the “Private Tabs”. In Brave, a user can maintain private, Tor-backed tabs, and at the same time regular tabs, so it’s a versatile browsing experience. Users who run private tabs contribute back to the Tor network by running relays, something that Mozilla also plans on doing with their Firefox implementation. The difference between the two is that Brave is based on Chromium, so Mozilla will have to work from scratch for their own implementation.

However, Tor is based on Firefox, and so several of the stuff that the Onion project team developed throughout the years have found their way into Mozilla’s browser. Features like anti-fingerprint protections and the “First-Party Isolation” (FPI) that blocks online advertisers from tracking users have derived directly from the Tor project. Tor helps people stay anonymous by relaying and rebounding network traffic across their worldwide network of users, who volunteer to be part of it by using it. This way, users can hide from network surveillance, ad-targeting, traffic analysis, and activity tracking. All communication between the network nodes is encrypted, so going back to the original sender of a pack is practically non-feasible.

However, and because Tor isn’t hiding the fact that the anonymous user is using the Tor network to access the net, some websites restrict access through it. Moreover, the Tor network can still be susceptible to exit-node eavesdropping, IP exposure, mouse fingerprinting, and circuit fingerprinting. Of course, these are specific cases that concern highly-targeted users, and not the regular yet strong privacy protection feature that most people want to enjoy. With the user base of Firefox being at around 10% right now, porting this large number to Tor’s Onion protocol will have a hugely beneficial impact on the project.

Are you excited with Mozilla’s plans to bring Tor into Firefox, or will you still be using another browser? Let us know where you stand in the comments down below, or join the discussion on our socials, on Facebook and Twitter.

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